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Youngkin appoints major donors to UVA’s Board of Visitors

Gov. Glenn Youngkin, wearing a blue suit, speaks outdoors at a podium with two microphones in front of him.
Crixell Matthews
VPM News File
Gov. Glenn Youngkin speaks with reporters outside of Virginia's executive mansion. This week, Youngkin made about 40 appointments to state universities' Board of Supervisors.

Two of the governor’s UVA picks have given more than half a million dollars to Youngkin’s fundraising efforts since he announced his candidacy in 2021.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin named a slate of 40 new picks to Virginia college and university boards Wednesday, including supporters who’ve given hundreds of thousands of dollars to his political fundraising efforts.

Three out of four of Youngkin’s picks to the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors are donors.

The largest is John Nau III, a UVA alumnus and owner of a Texas beer distribution business who previously served on UVA’s board from 2011 to 2015. Nau contributed a combined $300,000 to Youngkin’s campaign for governor and his Spirit of Virginia political action committee. Nau’s given more than $900,000 to GOP candidates in Virginia since 1999, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

Another of Youngkin’s picks for UVA’s board, private equity CEO Paul Manning, has given Youngkin more than $240,000 over the course of the Republican’s roughly two-year political career. A third, attorney Rachel Sheridan, contributed $25,000 toward Youngkin’s campaign for governor.

Other donors include:

  • Gurpreet Sandhu, whom Youngkin appointed to Virginia Commonwealth University’s board, has given over $56,000 to the governor’s political efforts.
  • Trial lawyer John Rocovich Jr., whom Youngkin appointed to Virginia Tech’s board, has chipped in more than $71,000 toward the Republican’s fundraising committees.

The majority of Youngkin’s recent board picks gave much smaller amounts to his fundraising committees or nothing at all.
Youngkin’s spokesperson Macaulay Porter defended his selections in an email to VPM News.

"The governor has appointed experienced and dedicated professionals willing to utilize their professional expertise to deliver on our higher education priorities of affordability, academic excellence, and free speech,” Porter said.

Nancy Morgan, coordinator of campaign finance reform group Big Money Out VA, said appointing major donors highlighted problems with Virginia’s campaign finance rules, which place no caps on financial contributions to politicians.

“It just reinforces the perception among citizens that our state is for sale,” Morgan said in an interview.

Youngkin’s list of appointees also includes prominent conservatives who were not major donors.

They include former U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and former U.S. Assistant Deputy of Defense Charles Stimson, both of whom were appointed to George Mason University. And onetime Republican presidential hopeful and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina was tapped for a seat at James Madison University.

Youngkin’s previous appointment of businessman Bert Ellis to the UVA Board of Visitors faced controversy. Student and faculty groups protested against the outspoken conservative alumnus’ appointment, but he was narrowly confirmed by the General Assembly earlier this year.

Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.